Hundreds of people throughout Sussex are suffering from long-term niggling injuries that are not life threatening but severely curtail their quality of life.

Siobhan Ryan speaks to one such person about the operation that helped to change his life.

For more than 20 years, Stephen Abbott was unable to go for a swim, swing a tennis racket or even put on his jacket without experiencing a sharp stab of pain in his shoulder.

What he believes started out as an old injury he sustained while playing rugby, gradually became a major feature of his life.

The damage to the muscle and the bone of his right shoulder meant that although Stephen, from Worthing, was not in continuous pain, certain movements would trigger it off.

He said: "I saw a doctor at the time but although there was obviously a problem it was felt I should wait, give it a rest and see what happened."

"Before I knew it, the years had gone by and I had simply got used to the injury."

"It was always at the back of my mind that if I left it long enough it would heal itself but that was obviously never going to happen".

"It was always there and all I managed to do was everything I could to avoid using the shoulder." "This meant avoiding things like swimming or anything that involved raising the arm above shoulder level."

But in the last year, Stephen discovered his condition was deteriorating and action needed to be taken. He said: "The shoulder was becoming stiff and sore on a regular basis and I finally woke up to the fact that my lifestyle was being badly affected."

Stephen then went to see consultant orthopaedic surgeon Kush Narang, who is based at Worthing Hospital.

Mr Narang, who specialises in shoulder and arm injuries, discovered that a gap had formed between the shoulder muscle and bone caused by the muscle wasting away which meant bones were grating together and causing pain.

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Keyhole surgery repaired the gap and Stephen then went on to have several bouts of physiotherapy to help him get used to working the shoulder again and build up his muscle.

He said: "It is absolutely brilliant the difference that has been made."

"I had got so used to the pain but now it has gone, I'm wondering why I put up with it for so long in the first place."

"The best sign was last week when I managed to swim 20 lengths in the swimming pool for the first time in years."

Mr Narang mainly treats people with sports injuries and is planning to set up a sports and injury clinic at the hospital soon.

But he says that people are also experiencing work-related problems that are affecting their lifestyle.

He said: "We are seeing people who have problems with their shoulder caused by an old injury and who now find it difficult to drive because of the angle at which they have to hold their arms.

"Also, people who use a keyboard all day can sometimes develop problems which we can occasionally help with."

More and more people are living sedentary lifestyles; going straight from the car to a computerand then back again.

The rapidly expanding popularity of the internet and computer games means children from a very young age are at risk of developing problems with their shoulders and wrists due to constantly using keyboards.

The condition known as Repetitive Strain Syndrome or RSI is now becoming more prevalent and experts warn the situation is likely to become a lot worse in the future.

Anyone who works with computers is in a high RSI risk group, due to the demands placed on the wrist by typing.

Musicians, athletes and construction workers are also prone to RSI due to the stress placed on joints and muscles.

Health experts recommend several methods that can be used to cut the risk ofdeveloping RSI. These include taking simple exercise such as swimming or walking.

Massage therapy is also a relaxing way to reduce strain on the muscles and prevent existing discomfort from turning into debilitating chronic pain.

Brighton-based GP Michael Taylor said: "We deal with a lot of sports - related and old injuries that are causing problems but there have been an increasing number of cases relating to RSI over the last few years.

"It is a condition that is now beginning to be taken a lot more seriously than it once was.

"People do not always have to resort to surgery as sometimes exercises and massage can help, but work on looking at the condition is continuing."